Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife Linda, and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto were arrested this morning on federal corruption charges related to an alleged series of quid-pro-quo dealings with restaurateur Harendra Singh. The charges include conspiracy to bribe, corruption conspiracy, honest services fraud, extortion, lying to federal agents, and obstruction of justice.
Singh owned the former Water's Edge in Long Island City, which is reportedly part of a separate corruption investigation into Singh's dealings with the de Blasio administration, and ran about 30 restaurants in all, most of them in Nassau County. In exchange for official help from Mangano and Venditto, Singh allegedly showered the politicians and their friends with free meals, Caribbean vacations, a private room at a restaurant and chauffeur service for Venditto, and a no-show job for Linda Mangano. Other perks allegedly included a massage chair, a Panerai Luminor watch worth several thousand dollars, discounted fundraiser rents for Venditto, and new hardwood floors for the Manganos' house.
"Yet again, we announce a breach of trust by two of our public officials," U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in a statement, adding, "Both of these men undermined the very system of laws they promised to uphold by furthering their personal interests rather than the best interests of their constituents. Sadly, Mangano also enlisted the assistance of his wife in an attempt to shield his wrongdoing from public scrutiny."
The government assistance Singh received from Mangano and Venditto allegedly included guarantees on loans worth about $20 million for his businesses, and contracts from Nassau County, including $200,000 worth of bread to the county jail in 2012, and $237,000 worth of food to county workers following superstorm Sandy.
As investigators closed in, the Manganos allegedly met with Singh repeatedly starting in early 2015 to try to cook up stories that could explain away Linda's job and the various gifts and vacations. Linda Mangano allegedly lied to FBI and IRS agents in January and May 2015 interviews, by claiming to have done work that she hadn't to justify her salary: over $2,000 a week, collected over more than four years. Venditto also allegedly lied, in October and December 2015 interviews, by claiming not to have received anything of value from Singh.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, center, with Governor Andrew Cuomo, left (Steven Henry/Getty)
Mangano, a Republican, was elected in 2009 and reelected in 2013. Venditto is also a Republican, and has served as town supervisor since 1998. He has been involved in Oyster Bay politics since the 1980s.
Singh has flipped on the politicians, as well as de Blasio, according to reports by Newsday and the New York Times. He was arrested last year and faces over 10 years in prison on charges that he bribed an Oyster Bay official with $50,000 and a $36,000 car lease for a guarantee of $32 million in business loans, and failed to report millions of dollars in cash income and under-the-table wages.
The New York City federal inquiry seems to focus on meetings Singh had with senior City Hall officials as eviction loomed at the Water's Edge because of $1.8 million in unpaid rent and fees for the spot, on city-owned land. Singh and associates gave more than $50,000 to de Blasio's campaign, and the Times writes that investigators are examining whether he used straw donors. Talks were underway to resolve the restaurant's debt when Singh was arrested, according to the paper.
De Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips told reporters in a statement that the administration "is absolutely confident that we’ve acted appropriately at all times. We don’t do pay to play. Out of an interest in protecting the integrity of an ongoing review, we can’t comment further at this stage."
Newsday reports that before his indictment, Singh boasted to employees about his access to Mangano and instructed them to comp him and other officials. The employees said they never saw Linda Mangano show up for her purported part-time job. Mangano has said he paid for the meals, and a spokesman has said Linda Mangano earned her salary.
The feds allege that Singh covered Mangano family trips to Niagara Falls, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. A lawyer for Singh has said the families traveled together and split the costs.
Federal prosecutors have been busy on Long Island lately, having recently convicted Suffolk County police chief James Burke, of civil rights violations for beating a suspect for stealing sex toys and other items from his SUV, then having his employees cover up the attack; Suffolk Conservative Party leader Ed Walsh, for gambling, golfing, and campaigning on the government clock; Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam, for various corruption schemes to enrich Adam; and Oyster Bay planning commissioner Fred Ippolito, for $2 million in tax evasion.
Edward Mangano faces seven counts that carry combined maximum sentences of 115 years in prison. Linda Mangano faces six counts that carry combined maximum sentences of 75 years. Venditto faces six counts that carry combined maximum terms of 80 years.
The defendants' arraignment is set for today.